Doctor Who
Blood of the Daleks - Part 1

Starring: Paul McGann
Big Finish Productions
RRP: 10.99
ISBN: 978 1 84435 255 5
Available 23 December 2006

The Doctor discovers that his TARDIS has been invaded - by a lippy Northern lass named Lucie Miller! Why have the Time Lords landed Lucie on him, and vice versa? The Doctor attempts to return Lucie to her own time, but finds that a temporal shield prevents him from landing. Instead, the pair find themselves on the sunless colony world of Red Rocket Rising, whose inhabitants face extinction as the result of a meteor strike and consequent impact winter. But help is at hand. The colony's SOS signal has been answered. Incredibly, it seems that the Daleks are coming to the rescue...

This is the first in a series of eight episodes featuring (appropriately enough) the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann), specially commissioned by the digital radio station BBC 7. McGann's Doctor has appeared on BBC 7 before, in adventures adapted from previous Big Finish releases. However, this is the first time that episodes will premiere on BBC 7, and there have been a few changes.

For one thing, the episodes are longer. Their 50-minute duration (one per CD on the commercial releases) brings them closer to the 45-minute running time of the current television series. The first and last stories are two-parters, while the rest are standalone episodes. Personally, I would have issued the two-parters as double CDs, but this release contains only the first episode of Blood of the Daleks. Therefore, listeners who missed the BBC 7 transmissions (and subsequent "listen again" online service) will have to wait up to a month to hear Part 2.

Each instalment is supplemented by its own equivalent of the TV show's behind-the-scenes companion, Doctor Who Confidential. On CD, each episode is followed by about 15 minutes of interview material with the cast and crew, an adapted and expanded version of the interviews heard in the shorter Beyond the Vortex segments that follow each instalment on BBC 7.

As well as a new format, the Time Lord also has a new travelling companion: Lucie Miller, played by Two Pints of Lager & a Packet of Crisps star Sheridan Smith. This series is set after the Eighth Doctor's adventures with Charlotte Pollard and C'rizz. We are not told what became of Charley and C'rizz, nor are we ever likely to be, as long as actors India Fisher and Conrad Westmaas are willing and able to reprise their roles. Like Barbara, Ian, Tegan and Donna before her, Lucie is an unwilling companion, and an amusingly argumentative one at that. Unfortunately, her entrance into the show, spontaneously materialising on board the TARDIS, much to the Doctor's surprise, is very similar to that of Donna in Doomsday and The Runaway Bride. More refreshingly, she is from the North of England, which is a first. (Given that these adventures are set closer to the time of the Doctor's regeneration into Christopher Eccleston's incarnation, perhaps he picked up his Northern accent from her...)

Also in common with Army of Ghosts/Doomsday, the guest cast includes one of Dirty Den's exes from EastEnders, in this case Anita Dobson. But fear not: there isn't a trace of Angie Watts in Dobson's character, Red Rocket Rising's dedicated but desperate acting president, Eileen Klint. Meanwhile, Kenneth Cranham is wonderfully gravelly and grave as the apparently paranoid, but ultimately vindicated, conspiracy theorist Tom Cardwell.

As usual, the dependable Nicholas Briggs voices the deadly Daleks. There are hints of Murray Gold's Dalek theme in Andy Hardwick's music, and the current television series is further evoked when the creatures' casings are compared to tanks. Writer Steve Lyons depicts the Daleks at their most cunning, gaining a foothold by pretending to be friendly, much as they did in The Power of the Daleks.

The Doctor doesn't mince words when it comes to his hatred for the creatures. He considers them incapable of pity, compassion, growth or redemption. This may seem to contradict his encounter with friendly Daleks in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip Children of the Revolution. However, this is not a problem since most chronologies place the DWM strips after the audios or in a separate continuity altogether. The Doctor's attitude here might even be seen as sowing the seeds for his character arc in Children of the Revolution.

All in all, this is an exciting and intriguing start to the series. Bloody marvellous!

Richard McGinlay

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